Obama predicts shift in strategy to woo swing-voters

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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President Barack Obama used a July 30 New York fundraiser to sketch out a major shift in his campaign strategy, when he promised donors to that he would soon fund more positive TV ads in swing-states.

But the promised change comes after new polls showed his current attack-ad strategy isn’t putting him ahead of Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

The polls show a major drop in the percentage of voters who like or trust Obama, following his decision to spend tens of millions of dollars on negative TV ads slamming Romney.

In the late summer and fall, “there is going to be… the need for voters in these swing states to know not just what they’re voting against but also what they’re voting for,” Obama told his wealthy donors.

“We’ll be spending a lot of time talking about the specific agenda that I intend to pursue in the second term — which I think will make sure that this economy is going full guns,” Obama told a his $40,0000-a-ticket New York audience.

Obama’s new strategy may have already begun.

He’s now spending money to broadcast two simple ads where he talks pleasantly and quietly to his audience.

In one ad, dubbed “Always,” he tries to dismiss his controversial speech in Roanoke, Va., where he told to business leasers that government investment is key to business success. “You didn’t built that,” Obama said during the speech.

In the second ad, titled “The Choice,” he slams Romney and then ends by saying “sometimes politics can seem very small, but the choice you face, its couldn’t be bigger.”

However, the positive agenda that he sketched out to his donors is a continuation of his current government-centered progressive policies.

“If we can stabilize Europe, position ourselves on education, on science and technology, on energy and a few other pieces of unfinished business like comprehensive immigration reform, then there’s no reason why America should not thrive in the decades to come,” he said, without offering any praise for entrepreneurs or for the free market.

Obama’s promised change toward more positive ads may be a major shift in the campaign, which has spent months trying to make Romney unacceptable to swing-voters in battleground states, such as Ohio, Florida and Virginia.

Obama’s campaign spent almost $100 million on ads by mid-July, mostly on attack-ads, according to ad-monitoring companies.

The apparent goal is to drive down overall turnout so that Obama’s much-reduced base — African-Americans, unmarried women, Latinos, government employees plus gays and Jewish voters — tops turnout among Romney’s remaining supporters of conservatives, married women, men, rural voters and entrepreneurs.

But Obama’s assault hasn’t crippled Romney, whose poll ratings hover within a few points of the incumbent. Moreover, Romney’s supporters remain more enthusiastic than Obama’s supporters.

Any damage from Obama’s attempted portrayal of Romney as a ruthless vulture-capitalist have been offset by Obama’s low ratings amid high unemployment, debt and deficits.

However, the negative ads — and Obama’s sharp-elbowed speeches — seem to have damaged Obama’s own standing with the voters, almost four years after he was swept into power by optimistic voters.

A mid-July poll by The New York Times and CBS showed that Obama’s favorability ratings had plunged to 36 percent, down from 42 percent in April.

His unfavorability rating had climbed to 48 percent, up from 45 percent in April.

The decline in personal popularity is caused by “negative campaigning, both in person and on the air,” according to Dick Morris, the chief campaign strategist for President Bill Clinton in 1996.

“He is now no longer the sunny, optimistic, friendly person he portrayed himself as being in 2008… a nasty, surly, angry image has taken over,” Morris said.

“The more he goes negative, the more he hurts himself in the process and undermines the reservoir to good will that has sustained him through tough economic times,” said Morris.

Overall, The New York Times’ poll showed 47 percent of voters said they would back Romney, while only 46 percent said they would back Obama.

That’s dangerous for Obama, because late-deciding votes tend to vote against the incumbent and for the challenger.

A late July poll by Pulse Opinion research showed Romney edging Obama as someone who shares voters’ values — 47 percent to 44 percent — and someone who is honest and trustworthy, by 46 percent to 44 percent. The poll was conducted for The Hill newspaper, and released July 30.

That’s a huge drop from May, when Gallup reported that 60 percent of voters thought Obama was more likable than Romney.

The 60 donors at the fundraiser included Wall Street leaders, such as Roger Altman, a former Treasury Secretary for President Bill Clinton, Robert Wolf, a former investment banker who supported him even before 2008, and Marc Lasry, a billionaire manager of a hedge fund.

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